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Mari Ruti on the Repetition Compulsion

I’m trying to write a good introductory text on the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis, which (if I complete it) I’ll use in the classes I teach.

I figured I could use this blog/commonplace book as a good tool for collecting quotes from various texts that I can put into the text I’m attempting to produce.

Below are some thoughts from Mari Ruti on the repetition compulsion.

Those of us who have loved more than once know that there is often a peculiar kind of consistency to our romantic lives, and particularly to the ways in which we get hurt. There are patterns and emotional scenarios that we tend to repeat over and over again, even when we make a conscious decision to avoid them. The fact that past patterns return and repeat in the present implies that, whatever our past holds, it animates the present: the present is always infused by the energies of the past. In this sense, there is no such thing as a present that is completely liberated from the past. 1

It was Sigmund Freud who gave us the tools to understand why our lives—and especially our love lives—exhibit debilitating repetitive patterns. He recognized that our earliest childhood experiences, particularly ones that are somehow traumatic or distressing, leave a permanent imprint in the unconscious recesses of our interiority. And he argued that the rudimentary outlines of our personality congeal around this imprint so that the patterns of relating that we internalize at this formative period are the ones that keep resurfacing in our lives. 2

  1. Mari Ruti, The Summons of Love, 2011, New York, Colombia University Press, p. 27.

  2. Ibid (pp. 28-29)

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